Ring Light For Hand Held Filming

I am about to start a project over three months which will be mainly hand held documentary style filming. I am shooting on Digi beta, mainly indoors in peoples houses - making use of natural light as much as possible.

Can anyone recommend a light weight,soft,dimmable,low wattage ring light that will give a zing, without looking too lit?

Many Thanks

Matt Smith
Lighting Cameraman

Matt Smith wrote:

>>Can anyone recommend a light weight, soft, dimmable, low wattage >>ring light that will give a zing, without looking too lit?

While certain things can look good with a ring light, if you are shooting an actual documentary (as opposed to "documentary style") it's an awful choice -- distracting to those being filmed, and flat looking.

Take advantage of natural light, don't fight it.

Jeff Kreines

If that is what you want in doco mode I can recommend lenslite, particularly if high percentage will be hand held.

Lenslite is daylight balanced and very lightweight.
Basic version without filter trays or version with two
Stage matte box included.
1 x 4 x 4
1 x 4 x 565

Dimmable 0 - 100%
Switchable sectors
Runs on any voltage from 12V - 40V
No colour shift on dim
No output change as voltage drops

You could contact -

Cirrolite (Distributor)
020-8955 6700

Prokit (sales and rental)
020 8995 4664

Heavy Pencil (rental only)

and I do have to declare a vested interested as we manufacture Kisslite and Lenslite


David Amphlett

I'd certainly recommend his Lenslite and the Kisslite is even better but bigger!


Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based

Can I humbly ask why you are considering a ringlight ?

I thought they only really came into play when the subject was close to the lens.

I suspect anything past a meter or two it would only work as a fill light in a doco scenario?

Am I missing something?

Many Thanks
Tom Gleeson DP

One reason I could think of for this set-up would be having a really nice eyelight on the subject at all times, but it sure wouldn't be cinema verite, eh!?

Good luck,
Michael Bratkowski
Camera bloke,
Lost Angels, CA

Jeff Kreines writes :

>>Take advantage of natural light, don't fight it.

One obvious advantage of existing light (as opposed to an on-camera light) is that your exposure and modelling won't shift as your distance to the subject changes, and your footage will never look like the six o'clock news.

Sometimes there's no substitute for carrying some extra stop (or fill) on board, but if you can work existing light artfully the results can be very satisfying. Depending on the situation, a skilled assistant with a good eye and a two-sided bounceboard can sometimes give you what you need. Don't forget that reflected fill will always match the colour temperature of your source -- a nice advantage.

Those of us who cut our teeth on sixties verite' shooting occasionally used sunguns or pre-lit when necessary (usually with tape-up Lowell Lights and mushroom photoflood bulbs -- a wonderfully fast and flexible approach), but that was very much the exception.

Mostly we had to develop the eye and the skills to shoot compelling footage under take-what-you-get conditions, with no possibility of a retake. And (unlike today's news and "reality" situations) no electronic viewfinders, zebras, scopes, monitors, instant playbacks or any other "confidence" crapola to get between us and our emulsions!

Dan "a Sekonic L-398 and a prayer" Drasin
Marin County, CA

A little fill light on the camera can be a nice supplement to natural light for fill on face. The key is for it to be *fill* and not a spotlight.

The best thing I've found is a home-rigged ten-dollar light from Home Depot, the little Flo kinds that are a foot long. You can get daylight or tungsten-flavoured tubes. Takes a little rigging is all...work out some way to mount it to the shoe mount. Maybe even Velcro it to your lens shade.

The great thing about it is that the light is *not* bright....just bright enough to be an eyelight or to put a little fill on the face when the room is dark. It's wide, wider than those LCD Lite Panel lights that mount on shoe mounts - I actually prefer it, since the Lite Panels are really only about 6" wide and still look spotty. A lot cheaper too. So, these little lights don't look so much like there's a light on top of your camera.

Can save your butt in a nightclub or other dark spot, too.

Bryan Donnell

Bryan Donnell writes:

>>The best thing I've found is a home-rigged ten-dollar light fromHome >>Depot, the little Flo kinds that are a foot long.

That's the kind I mentioned in a recent posting. Handy little things--8 AA batteries (short life) or external 12V battery pack (run all day). The 120-volt models are brighter and not much bigger.

>>You can get daylight or tungsten-flavoured tubes.

Well...at Home Depot you may have your choice of warm or cool tubes, but it would be a stretch to call them tungsten or daylight. However, if you're shooting in Flo-lit environments like supermarkets or Home Depot stores (!), or in mixed-light situations, their low CRI won't call too much attention to itself.

But when you need light you need light, and this is one very handy and cheap way to get it in a pinch.

For talking heads you can also tape these lights to very lightweight stands or high-back chairs, to add some modelling to dull-looking available-light situations.

You can get an extra stop of light by making "barn-door" intensifiers out of sheet aluminium or Reflectix insulation. Attach them along the length of the fixture with gaffer-tape hinges.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

I always like to have a bit of "eye sparkle" fill light standing by on camera, but the key is using it as little as possible! To this end, I had Litepanels customize a flood unit with a remote dimmer. I mount the dimmer knob right next to my trigger thumb so I can make instant adjustments on the fly without taking my focus hand off the lens. This way, I can move in on a subject while dialling down the fill, keeping the level consistent (remember, litepanels have virtually no colour temp shift). Most of the time, the light remains off, but its nice knowing I can imperceptibly ramp it up when I need it.

The good news is that Litepanels is now (or very soon) offering new units that include a remote jack, so its even easier to keep some fill standing by!

Note I have no affiliation with Litepanels other than being a
customer and big fan of their great lights.

Alan Jacobsen

Alan Jacobsen writes :

>>I mount the dimmer knob right next to my trigger thumb so I can make >>instant adjustments on the fly without taking my focus hand off the >>lens.

Way to go!

Wish someone made a video camera handgrip that's the equivalent of the various computer controllers that provide user-programmable buttons and jogwheels. On video cameras I prefer switches to menus, but if the camera's functions were entirely microprocessor - controlled, you could have the best of both worlds -- hardware switches PLUS easily-accessible controls at your fingertips while shooting. This may be overkill for narrative work but for docs, news and verite' it would be totally cool.

Dan "Mr. Kreines... Mr Jeff Kreines... to the white courtesy phone, please..." Drasin
Marin County, CA

Daniel Drasin wrote:

>>On video cameras I prefer switches to menus, but if the camera's >>functions were entirely microprocessor-controlled, you could have the >>best of both worlds --

The Kinetta Digital Cinema Camera (wait until you see the new version, it's so much cooler than the old one) has user-programmable buttons that are on the camera, handgrip, and even viewfinder (which can control the camera from several feet away). We can use a wireless controller, too -- so the handgrip needn't have a cable to the camera, and can be put on a tripod handle for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Just about anything can be mapped to these buttons, including speed ramp macros.

But then again, we're still vapourware.

Jeff "Paging Mr. Altasens... paging Mr. Altasens...." Kreines

This has been done for many decades. Such focus and zoom controllers are standard-issue for studio-rig cameras used in multi-camera shoots. All of the broadcast TV lens manufacturers make camera hand-grips with such controls.

Porter Versfelt IIIm DP & Lighting Cameraman

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